A weekly opinion piece from Paul Giess
June is probably the month Ajax Cape Town fans fear the most. The season finishes and the mass exodus of talent begins. “It is what it is”, as RDS has told us as he confirmed to the supporters that Ajax are destined to remain a selling club. To be fair the club has held onto talented players far better under the stewardship of Ari Efstathiou than in previous years. Even this year, until the contentious deal to take Abbubaker Mobara to Orlando Pirates was completed, we had seen more players coming into the first team than leaving.
It is tough to take when players of Mobara’s talent leave the squad. For supporters the pain is not eased until new players step up to take the place of those that leave, and we all know how difficult that is going to be in this case. RDS might be consoling himself with a potential replacement among the newly promoted youngsters or maybe tracking a new signing. Ari might be consoling himself by looking at the clubs bank statements and congratulating himself on business well done. For the supporters….we just wait hopefully for developments.
It might ease the pain a little if we knew the fees involved in these transfers, but the release of transfer fees is not a common practice in South Africa. Most clubs around the world are selling clubs to some extent, and even at the richest clubs every player has his price. As deals are concluded around the world supporters can be consoled when they see players are sold for what they consider a fair valuation. They are given hope when they lose key players, but see the club they support benefitting financially. The South African transfer market is a strange and secretive place, where the deals go down without news filtering out to the supporters. Even journalists cannot track down the details. At Soccer Laduma, correspondent Joe Crann is just as mystified as your average fan, as he explains here. As you can see from his column, even today local journalists are still uncertain how much Ajax received from Mamelodi Sundowns for Khama Billiat, despite the rumours of it being the biggest ever transfer deal in South African football.
Mobara’s transfer was played out in the press as a messy affair, with statements from agents, counter-statements from the club and general confusion from the media. For fans it really is not that interesting. But, if anyone could have told us the details of the deal at some point we might have been able to understand it more easily. What fee do Ajax receive? Is there a sell-on clause? Are there bonuses dependent on international selection or other performance indicators? Do these concepts even exist in South African football? There may be some degree of contractual confidentiality involved, but often these details are made available to supporters of clubs overseas. Fans of a particular club then follow the players their clubs sell and monitor their progress, hoping for a later windfall if their careers take-off.
In Mobara’s case, the press has referred to a huge transfer fee, but nowhere has it actually been confirmed. So we are left to guess and hope that these deals have gone well for the club, rather than make our own informed decisions. If we could proudly announce the amount ajax has received in recent years for Billiat, Hlatshwayo, Dolly and now Mobara, and show how those funds have been used to develop and improve more local talent, maybe those Capetonians that constantly moan about Ajax being a selling club might be a bit more understanding.